Thanks to a wealth of information available on the Internet and social media’s penchant for inspiring #travelgoals, college and high school students are yearning to study abroad more than ever. With the abundance of resources, however, comes information-overload. Lucky for you, there isn’t just one path to studying abroad.
Maybe your school is known for their great exchange program. Maybe you met someone who had a blast with a company that specializes in immersive experiences. Or maybe someone you follow on Instagram shared a motivational account of their study abroad experience and you just know you’re destined to try it out for yourself.
At Go Overseas, we’ve sifted through the digital noise and reviewed some of the most popular ways to study abroad -- and how to get started. Now you’ll be less worried about the “How?” and more excited about the “When!?” Let's dive in: here are 10 creative ways to study abroad and experience a new destination.
Also Read: How to Study Abroad for Free or Cheap
1. Book a study abroad program through your university
Students traditionally study abroad through their college or university. Often considered the easiest way to book a program, study abroad credits are almost guaranteed to fit your academic requirements, and primary fees often link directly to your tuition payments.
In addition to easily transferable courses, your university’s study abroad program may also manage logistics like visas and housing. Speaking of housing: did you know that many students report studying abroad costs to actually be less expensive than staying on campus?
You can inquire about study abroad opportunities available through your school by reaching out to your on-campus program counselor or browsing your school’s study abroad online portal.
2. Find study abroad programs through a third-party provider
Just as not all schools are created equal, not all study abroad programs through universities are the same either. If your university doesn’t have a program with the focus, location, or dates that you're looking for, don’t give up there and assume you're not destined to study abroad.
There are many companies that work within the education sector to help students spend a semester, year, or summer abroad -- regardless of your major or school. These companies are called “third-party providers” and they specialize in matching students with study abroad programs around the world. One thing to note, though: there’s almost always a program fee for their services.
Sometimes universities with few study abroad options will have already established relationships with a couple of program providers (meaning, your credits will transfer easily), so check with your academic counselor or study abroad office for recommendations. If your school doesn't have any established relationships, you can start your research by searching Go Overseas.
3. Enroll directly with a university overseas
Another way to study abroad (that not many students think of) is by directly enrolling in a university overseas. Rather than going through an organized program with your home school or a third-party, you can directly enroll for a semester, year, or full degree at a university abroad.
Surprised to hear you can attend school in a different country even if you’re not a citizen there? Yep, many colleges and universities abroad actually welcome international students with open arms! And that’s just one of the numerous benefits of direct enrollment.
Do note, however, that if you're applying for a university that doesn't provide courses in English, you'll have to already have a pretty good grasp of the local language. Not to worry: we’re one step ahead and rounded up a list of international universities that teach in English. Just be sure the international university’s credits are transferable if you’d like to complete your degree at your home school.
4. Take a global independent study
Are you working on a big project or academic paper within your major and the study abroad programs you’ve researched just seem too generic? Perhaps this project might be essential to the next phase of your academic and professional career, even. If this sounds like you, a global independent study overseas might be just what you need.
Independent studies are usually an in-depth course both created and completed by a student under the guidance of a faculty sponsor. For example, Brown University has a wonderful system laid out on their website to assist students in completing the requirements for an independent study.
While these types of study abroad opportunities are similar to booking a program through your school (you’ll have to reach out to a professor, academic counselor, and your study abroad office) they stand out because of their size, requirements, and niche focus.
5. Supplement your learning with field research abroad
Do you thrive in hands-on learning environments and can’t stand the thought of sitting in yet another classroom (even if it is in another country)? There’s a special type of study abroad for you.
Perfect for students who find global independent studies to be too demanding, field research is another type of immersive learning experience for prospective study abroad students. Though it may not offer as much academic credit as class-based studies, the field experience will be worthwhile.
Consider programs that’ll get you down and dirty in archeological digs or one that will help you dive off the coast of Malaysia to research marine life. Regardless of what you’re looking for, there’s likely a field research program for it.
6. Intern for school credit
Though interning abroad is usually considered the next step after college in order to get a job, you can still intern abroad for school credit before graduation day.
Many companies around the world only offer internships to candidates who can receive academic credit, and many universities around the world may require a number of internship credits (also known as hours of experience) in order to graduate.
These pre-entry level job opportunities may be unpaid, but they offer a wealth of learning opportunities while meeting academic requirements. Remember: be sure to get your intern program pre-approved to ensure the hours and internship type meet your home school’s credit requirements.
7. Study abroad through a student exchange
Have you ever considered swapping places with an international student just to see what a semester or year in their shoes would be like? Well, you’re in luck because that's totally a thing!
Study abroad programs by way of student exchanges are usually facilitated through “sister schools”, or schools that have established relationships across the seas. These schools accept a foreign exchange student under the condition that the international school will, in turn, accept you into theirs. When both of you have completed your semester or year, you switch back!
Student exchange programs are most common in universities but can be available for high school students too. Usually for a shorter duration, high school exchange programs include language learning and cultural immersion.
8. Start early with a high school study abroad program
If you want to get a jump start on your study abroad experiences and an exchange program isn’t an option, going abroad in high school is still a popular and viable option.
Most common with graduating seniors, high school study abroad programs are gaining steam to be the runner up to studying in college. In high school, you can get started on your international education, make connections that will assist you in college or your career, and gain a perspective on the world that will change the way you value your own life experiences.
High school study abroad programs can take place during the summer and school breaks, or the full year! Browse hundreds of high school study abroad programs listed on Go Overseas and rated by real students to get started.
9. Get supported by the federal government to study abroad
Did you know the Department of State and federal agencies fund study abroad opportunities for students of all ages? Whether you’re in grade K-12 or in a college or university, you can enhance your education and project research by applying to their partnered programs.
High school students are offered yearlong and summer merit-based scholarships and language programs, like The Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange and National Security Language Initiative for Youth. Undergraduate and graduate students have access to need and merit-based scholarships, teaching assistant assignments, language studies, field research support, and more.
Learn more about study and research abroad opportunities supported by the federal government on the U.S. Department of State's website.
10. Enroll at a language school abroad
Whether you're still enrolled in college, haven't yet started, or graduated long ago, another way you can study abroad is by enrolling in a language school abroad.
This is a little different than studying abroad through a third-party provider, since many of those will include extras, like non-language courses, excursions, or set you up with a local university. Studying abroad with a language school is just that: you take language classes, possibly live with a host family or rent an apartment, and embark on a new linguistic journey.
Language schools are a popular option because they are often affordable, fun, and don’t usually as much extra paperwork and applications as a traditional study abroad program.
Bonus: study abroad virtually
Sometimes going overseas just isn't in the cards, whether because your academic schedule is too full, it's not in your budget, or perhaps there is a global pandemic that has shut down international travel (we see you, Coronavirus). But that doesn't mean that "studying abroad" is off the table.
Thanks to a whole host of new distance learning technologies, virtual study abroad is a new trend that is taking off at lightening speed. By enrolling in a virtual study abroad program, you can broaden your horizons, make international connections, grow your global network, and immerse yourself in a new culture and language, all from your own couch. Sure, you may miss roaming the streets of a new city, but if traditional study abroad isn't going to work for you, virtual study abroad is a great alternative. Plus, it's often a fraction of the cost!
Ready to go overseas?
There is no “best” way to study abroad. Everyone’s circumstance differs and what works for one student may not work for another. The best way to figure out the right study abroad program for you is to review your options, evaluate your budget and financial aid availability, and choose the program that best fits your goals.
This post was originally published in May 2015, and was updated in January 2019 and June 2020.